Greetings from the South Asia Collective! We are a network of human rights activists and organisations from across South Asia. We’ve been working since 2015 to document the condition of the region’s minorities, and to help develop capacity among grassroots-level organisations focused on minority rights and the freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).



We are pleased to bring to you the 9th edition (2023/2) of our Online Bulletin, where we provide an overview of recent human rights violations against South Asia’s minorities, and other minority-related news developments. This edition covers the period between 1st March and 10th June, 2023.

Our Bulletins are put together by research & documentation teams from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Starting from this edition, the Bulletins will adhere more closely to International Human Rights Law. We will report on developments related to key civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, and closely monitor the various abuses and violations against minorities in South Asia, through the persecution lens. While our primary focus is on religious minorities (and micro-minorities), our country teams will also cover ethnic, caste, gender, and sexual minorities, as well as indigenous peoples. The Bulletins utilise both primary and secondary sources of data. Secondary sources include international and domestic media outlets, as well as other civil society-led documentation efforts. When using primary sources, we rely on victims, witnesses, and other relevant individuals. Although updates from these sources undergo internal verification, we do not disclose their details due to security reasons. We are, however, open to engaging with international accountability mechanisms. In a region where numerous abuses go unreported, our Bulletins are not intended to provide an exhaustive list of violations. Our aim is to establish a record, highlight trends, and contribute to processes aimed at awareness, prevention, and accountability.

Previous editions of the Bulletin are available here.

Highlights of the period under review

Links to country sections: Afghanistan | Bangladesh | India | Nepal | Pakistan | Sri Lanka

Vulnerable minority groups who faced continuing discrimination and marginalisation as well as fresh rights violations during the period under review included Ahmadiyyas (Bangladesh, Pakistan), Christians (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Dalits (India, Nepal), Hindus (Pakistan, Bangladesh), Muslims (India, Sri Lanka), and Shia-Hazaras (Afghanistan and Pakistan). Women and other gender and sexual minorities, including from the aforementioned targeted groups, continued to face structural discrimination. Highlights from the period under review include:

  • Instances of extra-judicial killing and custodial torture by state actors were reported from India, where police forces continued an ‘encounter’ killing campaign that has disproportionately targeted Muslims, with the open endorsement of the political leadership.

  • Instances of arbitrary detention happened on several pretexts, such as blasphemy and blasphemy-related charges (Bangladesh and Pakistan), conversions (India), and for dissenting against the ruling regime (Afghanistan and India).

  • Major ethnic clashes were reported in India, resulting in large-scale loss of life, disproportionately targeting the mostly-Christian Kuki tribes. Targeted killings of minorities by extremist non-state actors were reported from India (by various Hindu extremist groups) and Pakistan (by Islamic State-Khorasan). Other instances of physical violence against minorities by non-state actors were reported from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Serious instances of anti-minority hate speech and incitement were reported in India (against Muslims and Christians) and Bangladesh (against Ahmadiyyas). In India, Hindu extremist groups also conducted dozens of hate rallies and weapons distribution drives across the country, signalling escalating risk of imminent violence, particularly in BJP-ruled provinces like Uttarakhand and Maharashtra. Concerns regarding the activities of Hindu nationalist groups have also spilled over into Nepal.

  • Conditions for religious freedom continued to be dire in most countries. Communities whose places of worship came under physical attack included Ahmadiyyas (Bangladesh, Pakistan), Christians (Bangladesh, India), and Muslims (India). Other, fresh restrictions on worship by minorities were reported being imposed in India (against Muslims and Christians). Sri Lanka was newly placed on the US Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s Special Watchlist, while Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan continued to be designated as Countries of Particular Concern. USCIRF also highlighted other persisting trends, such as the weaponisation of anti-proselytisation and cow protection laws in India and Nepal. Another report, the US State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, also highlighted the same concerns in each country.

  • Positive developments included a Supreme Court order in Nepal that fortified affirmative action as a fundamental right, and the notification of new rules that will enable Hindus in Pakistan’s Islamabad Capital Territory to marry according to their customs. Sri Lanka received commendation for progress made in the resettlement of internally displaced persons.

Overall, majoritarian and authoritarian trends appear to be hardening across much of the region. Governments and political parties led by authoritarian leaders, including some that openly target minorities, are continuing to consolidate power. Against this backdrop, violent non-state extremist groups across the region have continued to operate with impunity, often with the open endorsement of the state and political leadership. The safeguards for South Asia’s vulnerable minorities continue to be woefully inadequate.

Other announcements

  • SAC is soon organising an online side-event on regional Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcomes. This is planned during the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) that commences later in June 2023, when the UPR outcome reports of Pakistan and Sri Lanka are scheduled to be adopted. India’s UPR outcome report was adopted in March. During the webinar, experts and practitioners will discuss minority-related UPR recommendations received by the above three countries, regional-level trends, and implementation-related challenges that lie ahead. Further details regarding the webinar will be shared in the coming weeks.

  • SAC made a submission to the UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) on the promotion of FoRB at the national and local level. The submission, which was made in response to a call for inputs ahead of the SR’s report to the General Assembly, covers Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. SAC’s inputs are available here.

  • The 2023 edition of SAC’s flagship annual South Asia State of Minorities (SASM) Report will examine majoritarianism in South Asia, that lies at the root of the various challenges faced by the region’s minorities. Ahead of the launch of the 2023 edition, scheduled for February 2024, SAC is exploring interventions focusing on justice and accountability on one hand, and promoting dialogue and diversity on the other. Organisation and individuals seeking to collaborate with us in this realm are requested to email us at with suggestions and proposals.

  • The 2022 edition of the SASM Report remains available for free download. The report focused on South Asian states’ commitment to international human rights standards. 

  • SAC’s Pakistan partner Elaine Alam, along with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), produced ‘A Breach of Faith: Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2021/22’, a yearly report on the state of FoRB in Pakistan. The report, which highlights several alarming developments, is available in its entirety here.

Happy reading!

The South Asia Collective team

Human rights in Afghanistan is challenging and dangerous, considering the continuing crackdown by Taliban that has left the country bereft of independent media and civil society. The updates in this section are sourced from reportage by iNGOs and by Afghan online news portals based abroad, who obtain information from primary sources based on the ground in Afghanistan. SAC too has local partners willing to share evidence and further information with international accountability mechanisms, who may write to us at for further engagement.

During the period under review, the Taliban de facto authorities in Afghanistan continued to impose their interpretation of Islamic sharia, which has particularly impacted the rights of women and girls, who have now been effectively erased from public life. Concurrently, the Taliban has also continued its crackdown on all forms of dissent.

Arbitrary detention

Since capturing power in 2019, Taliban authorities have accused of grave, widespread, and systematic abuses of physical integrity rights, manifesting in the form of, inter alia, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and torture.

During the period under review, there were several instances of dissenters being arbitrarily detained by Taliban authorities without charge. In each case, the Taliban justice system has failed to ensure the detainees’ rights to procedural fairness and to a fair trial.

  • Rasool Parsi, a university professor and Islamic scholar, was arrested in Kabul on 20th March. His release has reportedly not been granted despite two court hearings.

  • Nargis Sadat, a women’s rights defender, was arrested in Kabul on 25th March. Sadat is accused of organising women-led protests against the Taliban regime.

  • Matiullah Wesa, an education activist, was arrested in Kabul on 27th March, in a case highlighted by Amnesty International. Taliban authorities confirmed the arrest and accused Wesa of illegal activities.

Social, economic, and cultural rights

  • Taliban authorities also continued their targeting of women, who have now been virtually erased from public life in Afghanistan. Developments reported during the period under review included the beginning of the annual school year, with millions of teenage girls and women continuing to be denied attendance. Education for women in Afghanistan is now restricted to those aged 12 and under.

    Concurrently, Taliban authorities were also reported to have ordered the closure of several schools that served blind girls.

The period under review saw several instances of hate speech and concentrated attacks against minority communities. The most notable incident took place on 2nd March, when the Ahmadiyya community faced violent attacks in Panchagarh. Subsequently, there were individual instances of hate speech being propagated through social media. Also, a Hindu man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for posting allegedly blasphemous messages on his Facebook page.

Physical integrity rights

On 4th March, the Salana Jalsa, an religious congregation of the Ahmadiyya community, came under attack in Panchagarh town. At least two people were killed and around thirty injured. Police, who reportedly arrived late and seemed uninterested in stopping the violence, eventually fired live bullets to restore order. News reports suggested that the attack was instigated by hate speeches made against the community at local mosques.

Local Ahmadiyyas claimed that official permission was sought from local authorities six months prior to the congregation, and that the organisers were told that no written permission was required so long as the event was conducted within private premises. Local police also reportedly visited the venue a day before the incident to ensure that security measures were followed.

A day after the attack, 15 eminent cultural activists, academics and minority leaders urged the government to take strong preventive measures to protect the community in a joint statement.

There is a long-standing debate on whether Ahmadiyyas, who self-identify as Muslims but are considered as heretics by some Muslims, should be officially recognised. There is a long history of extremist groups campaigning for their banishment, and of the community facing physical attacks.

Individual liberties

On 24th May, the Rangpur Cyber Tribunal in Bangladesh sentenced a Hindu man to 10 years in prison for an allegedly blasphemous Facebook post that had sparked violent attacks against Hindus in 2017. The lawyer for the accused argued that he was illiterate and could not have posted the message.

The violence in 2017 had resulted in at least one death and twenty injuries, included widespread vandalism and destruction of Hindu houses and temples.

Bangladeshi authorities are known to routinely abuse the Information & Communication Technology (ICT) Act and the Digital Security Act to target minorities for online content deemed to be blasphemous.

Other developments

  • Inhabitants of Dhaka’s Telugu Sweeper Colony were handed eviction notices by the city corporation, which reportedly intends to build housing for its own employees in the area. The Telugu-speaking families in the colony, who are mostly Dalits engaged in sanitation work, have reportedly been residing there for over 30 years. Local human rights groups protested against the corporation authorities’ move.

  • A Dalit-led public rally attended by over 800 people in Satkhira town called for extended rights for Bangladesh’s minorities, including reformed land rights, reserved quotas in university admissions, and the provision of safety equipment for sanitary workers.

Several instances of anti-minority violations were recorded during the period under review. Bangladeshi authorities’ continued failure to protect the rights of vulnerable minorities, and indeed to appease extremist ideologies, is most concerning. With several minority religious events and observances due in the second half of the year, it is imperative that authorities enhance security measures and ensure that there is no further violence.

During the period under review, India witnessed several troubling developments that raised further concerns about its treatment of religious minorities. The north-eastern state of Manipur witnessed prolonged ethnic violence, leaving at least 98 dead. Anti-minority hate speech continued unabated, at alarming levels, signalling potentially imminent anti-Muslim mass violence in BJP-ruled states like Uttarakhand and Maharashtra. And Hindu nationalist ideological goals that have legal backing, like cow protection and restrictions on conversions, continued to provide cover for the violent targeting of Muslims and Christians by Hindu extremist groups, often in coordination with police forces.

Arbitrary deprivation of life

Major, reported instances of arbitrary deprivation of life by state actors during the period under review included:

  • Police forces in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh conducted several extra-judicial ‘encounter’ killings of alleged criminals, continuing a campaign that began shortly after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath assumed power in 2017. The killing campaign, which has disproportionately targeted Muslims, has claimed 183 lives so far. Additionally, an incarcerated former opposition politician, whose son had been gunned down by police two days earlier, was shot dead in public along with his brother by Hindu extremists chanting religious slogans. The state’s political leadership celebrated the killing.The ‘encounter’ killings in UP have inspired a similar campaign in BJP-ruled Assam, where police forces have shot dead 76 people since May 2021. In Assam too, Muslims have disproportionately accounted for the victims.

  • Other instances of custodial killings of Muslims during the period under review included: a 25-year-old man who was allegedly tortured to death in Ranchi (Jharkhand) (7 April); a 30-year-old man who was allegedly burned to death in Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) (8 April); and a 28-year-old man in Mendhar (Jammu & Kashmir) (27 April), also allegedly tortured to death. Family members in each case alleged cover-up attempts by police.

Other major right-to-life violations included:

  • Continuing, ethnic violence across BJP-ruled Manipur that has reportedly left over 100 people dead, and tens of thousands displaced. Clashes erupted on 3 May between the tribal and Christian Kukis and Hindu Meiteis, after the state High Court directed the state government to consider including the latter in the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST), making them eligible for affirmative action benefits. Protests by tribal groups and counter protests by Meteis, were the trigger for the violence that has not ended to this day. The deaths have been at the hands of security forces, who were given ‘shoot-at-sight’ orders, as well as  by non-state armed groups. While tribal groups do not strictly conform to religious groupings, Kukis – who accounted for most of the deaths – have alleged that majority-Hindu mobs were incited to attack them. Hundreds of churches have reportedly been vandalised and burned to the ground. Human Rights Watch alleged police bias against the Kukis. On 29 May, the Chief Minister announced that nearly 40 armed Kuki ‘terrorists’ – who local Kukis said were guarding their villages from further violence – were shot dead by security forces. A week earlier, a former senior BJP legislator was arrested for inciting violence. The central government did not initiate a judicial probe into the violence till almost a month after it began. At the time of writing, sporadic violence was continuing across the region.

The trend of Muslims being killed by extremist Hindu non-state actors has also continued. Cases reported during the period under review included:

  • The murder of a 39-year-old man in Ramanagara (Karnataka) (31 March), after he and two others were waylaid by a group of Hindu extremists. Hours before the body was found, the perpetrators had forcibly taken the victims to a police station and filed a complaint against them under the state’s cow protection law. The victim’s body reportedly bore marks of torture with a stun gun. Days before the killing, the leader of the Hindu group involved in the killing – who enjoys a wide following on social media – had posted of himself with a stun gun. Many Hindu extremists now routinely post online content of themselves harassing and attacking Muslims.

  • Other cases of killings included the lynching of a 20-year-old man in Ranchi (Jharkhand) (7 April), and of another man in Khandwa (Madhya Pradesh) (9 April), both reportedly on suspicion of theft.

Arbitrary detention
  • India’s Christians, including their faith leaders, continued to face arbitrary detention using anti-conversion laws that are now in place in 13 states. Such cases were recently reported from: Gazipur (Uttar Pradesh) (23 April), where one of those remanded included an 18-month-old baby; Durg (Chhattisgarh) (30 April), where Hindu extremists were filmed assaulting Christians as police looked on; and Shahdol (Madhya Pradesh), where 10 Christians were arrested as they were praying in a private residence. In each case, the arrests were carried out upon complaints by Hindu militant groups like BJP-ally Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its youth wing Bajrang Dal.

  • Several Kashmiri journalists continued to be in detention under various draconian laws. Fahad Shah, the editor of a popular online news portal, continued to languish in prison despite receiving bail in multiple cases, and despite charges under a ‘preventive’ detention law (the Public Safety Act) being quashed. Shah is currently undergoing trial under India’s anti-terror law, for an article he published that authorities claim fomented terrorism in the region.

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
  • Instances of Muslim men being accosted and physically assaulted by Hindu extremists claiming to work for the protection of cows (often referred to as cow ‘vigilantes’) were reported from Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Haryana, among other locations. Such attacks, enabled by India’s state-level cow-protection statutes, are now routine, and are portrayed as euphoric triumphs on social media and news media.

  • Instances of Muslims being assaulted by Hindu extremists for perceived inter-faith relationships were reported from Puttur (Karnataka) (3 May) and Faridabad (Haryana) (17 May). The alleged perpetrators of both attacks were members of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu militant group with close links to the BJP.

  • Other violent assaults of Muslims were reported from Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) (23 May) and Kota (Rajasthan) (23 May).

Incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence
  • Four BJP leaders were arrested in opposition-ruled Bihar for inciting violence against Muslims during a Hindu religious festival in March. A top Bajrang Dal leader too was forced to surrender for his role in the violence.

  • Ahead of the provincial elections that concluded in Karnataka in May, the BJP resorted to anti-Muslim rhetoric and polarisation, in violation of campaign guidelines and a 2017 Supreme Court ruling banning the soliciting of votes based on identity. A sitting BJP legislator said that those speaking against India and Hindus would be shot. Prime Minister Modi called on supporters to chant a Hindu religious slogan (after which the Bajrang Dal militant group is named) while casting their vote. Nevertheless, the BJP lost the elections.

  • The Bajrang Dal and other Hindu extremist groups continued to organise religious congregations marked by incitement and weapons distribution ceremonies, across northern India, with 15 such events reported in April alone. The events are attended by powerful Hindu religious figures and typically involved young Hindu men receiving tridents and other weapons, and taking an oath to protect Hindus and Hinduism from Muslims. Christians too were targeted. Open calls for mass rape, mass killing and genocide were reported. Other common themes included, inter alia, the spreading of various anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and the justification of the assassination of Gandhi. In at least one Bajrang Dal event, participants were reportedly trained in the use of fire arm. Public demonstrations and rallies by Hindu extremists bearing weapons were also reported, across the country. These events took place despite a recent Supreme Court direction to state police forces to initiate action in hate speech cases.

    Localised anti-Muslim protests by Hindu extremists in Purola (Uttarakhand) in late-May escalated into a state-wide campaign marked by incitement, economic and social boycotts, and targeted physical attacks across at least 10 towns. BJP-allies Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its youth wing Bajrang Dal have written to local authorities and private landlords calling for the eviction of Muslims and their property. Devbhoomi Raksha Abhiyan, another Hindu extremist group, has issued an ultimatum for all Muslims to leave the region ahead of a mahapanchayat (large public gathering) scheduled for 15th   Police are yet to act against the organisers of the planned gathering. Dozens of Muslim families have already shuttered their homes and businesses and fled the area, anticipating imminent mass violence. BJP-ruled Uttarakhand has seen heightened incitement and violence against Muslims in recent years, particularly since a three-day religious conclave in late-December, 2021, that was marked by powerful Hindu religious leaders making open and repeated calls for the mass killing of Muslims. marked by powerful Hindu religious leaders making open and repeated calls for the mass killing of Muslims. Several speakers from the 2020 conclave are also expected to speak at the upcoming mahapanchayat.

    Maharashtra, another BJP-ruled state, also appeared to be at heightened risk of imminent anti-Muslim mass violence. Over 12 cases of unrest — following social media posts or Hindu religiou processions – were reported during the period under review, leaving at least two dead, and many injured. Since a BJP-supported government assumed power in June 2022, the province has seen a spike in public anti-Muslim hate rallies beinr organised by HIndu extremist groups, often marked by open and direct incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence.

    Recent cases of communal unrest in Maharashra following Hindu nationalist hate rallies

    Recent cases of communal unrest in Maharashra following Hindu nationalist hate rallies (Source: Indian Express)


    Despite the alarming rise in hate speech & incitement across India by BJP politicians and other BJP-linked figures, the lack of legal action against them remained a continuing trend. Repeat offenders such as T.Raja Singh, Praveen Togadia, Yati Narsighanand, Bajrang Muni, have availed easy bail, when they are arrested, and continue to incite violence with impunity (see here, here, here).

  • A Hindi propaganda movie centred around the discredited ‘love jihad’ conspiracy theory (a supposed plot by Muslims to seduce and convert Hindu and Christian women en masse, and recruit them to Islamic terror groups) also led to violent clashes in at least twolocations, leaving one dead and several injured. The movie was promoted by PM Modi and has been declared tax-free in several BJP states. Another such propaganda movie released last year had also reportedly triggered violence against Muslims. Several more such movies are known to be in the offing.

Freedom of religion or belief

Several FoRB violations by state actors were reported during the period under review:

  • Three Muslim men – along with 25 other unidentified persons – in Lakhimpur Kheri (Uttar Pradesh) were booked for rioting and criminal trespass after they offered prayers in a building allegedly built on government land. Separately, over a thousand Muslims across Uttar Pradesh were booked for damaging public property – or for violating the Epidemic Act – after they offered open congregational prayers to mark Eid.

  • On the last Friday in the month of Ramadan, authorities in Jammu & Kashmir disallowed, without explanation, congregational noon prayers at Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid.

  • In national capital Delhi, the wall of a 250-year-old mosque was demolished by municipal authorities, reportedly without due process, in a move that authorities claim was part of an encroachment removal drive.Also in Delhi, the shrine and grave of Sufi saint Syed Nanhe Miyan Chishti, was demolished without notice.

  • In Manipur, before the Kuki-Meitei ethnic clashes, three churches allegedly built on state land were demolished by district authorities.

  • The Chief Minister of Assam announced that his government had closed 600 Islamic madrassas in the state, and that he would eventually close down all such madrassas in the state. Madrassas provide both religious and secular education to Muslim students. India’s Constitution grants its religious minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions.

FoRB violations by non-state actors included:

  • The burning down of over 120 churches during the ethnic violence in Manipur in May. (See section on arbitrary deprivation of life for more)

  • The vandalism and desecration of a mosque in Sonipat (Haryana) by an armed mob of 30-35 people, who are reportedly being protected by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological guardian. In a separate incident on the same day, Muslims offering prayers at another mosque in Sonipat were assaulted by Hindu extremists.

Lack of effective remedy
  • Recently-released government data revealed that the previous BJP government in Karnataka ordered the dropping of 385 criminal cases against various individuals between July 2019 and April 2023. The dropped cases included 182 on hate speech, cow vigilantism, and communal violence. Beneficiaries of these orders included a BJP MP and MLA.

Economic, social, and cultural rights
  • The recently-released results of a government survey on higher education revealed that India’s Muslims continued to lag behind other marginalised groups like Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes. Muslims are the only community for whom enrolment figures are declining.

The incidents and trends documented above cover a period of only three months. It is evident that India’s justice system and its watchdog institutions are failing to uphold the rule of law and safeguard the rights of minority groups. This is illustrated by the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)’s decision to defer the re-accreditation of India’s National Human Rights Commission for a second consecutive year. India also continues to plummet in various indices calculated by global democracy watchdogs. Some, like the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, have identified India’s minorities as facing the risk of potential mass killings, a designation that was also recently noted by the United States Department of State in its annual report on International Religious Freedom. With crucial state-level and national-level elections on the anvil, the risk is only likely to increase. As India assumes the G20 presidency and retains a seat on the Human Rights Council, it is imperative that the international community do all it can to highlight the dire situation of India’s religious minorities, and to hold the Indian government accountable.

During the period under review, some Dalit groups in Nepal saw their economic, social and cultural rights erode, while others have faced religious and caste-based discrimination at the hands of non-state actors. Furthermore, despite court efforts to secure affirmative action as well as state officials’ assurances that minority interests will be reflected in the state’s plans and programmes, this is yet to materialise.

Physical integrity rights

Discrimination and other physical integrity violations: The widespread discrimination against Dalits has continued to manifest in violent ways. Recently, a Dalit man, accused of entering the kitchen at a temple, was assaulted by the temple priest by pouring hot rice over the victim. Similarly, in another incident, a Dalit man was beaten for having eaten at a feast for ‘higher-caste’ people. Even elected government representatives have been found engaging in caste-based discrimination. For instance, in April, two people, including an elected ward member from the Kaski district in central Nepal, were arrested for caste-based discrimination against a Dalit man after a complaint was filed with the police. According to the complaint, during a Hindu ritual celebration, the accused first barred the victim from entering the kitchen and then threw out food touched by the victim for having been ‘defiled’.

Such discrimination, however, is not limited to rural areas. A Dalit man who had gone to a similar ceremony as a musician was discriminated against in Kathmandu, the capital city. The manifestations of caste-based discrimination have continued to plague the Dalit community despite the somewhat wide gamut of legal measures purportedly protecting Dalits. The bottom-up rejections of caste-based values also remain punished through seclusion; anecdotal evidence of familial exile being imposed upon Dalit-non-Dalit couples remains common.

Additionally, when victims of caste-based discrimination seek legal redress, they risk facing social ostracism and even physical harm. In May this year, one Binu Devi Paswan was assaulted by  village committee members in Bhagwanpur, Siraha for reporting an act of caste-based discrimination perpetrated by the latter against him and several others.

Right to fair trial: Despite the widespread attention garnered by the May 2020 Nawaraj BK incident, in which BK and several others were tragically killed due to his relationship with an ‘upper-caste’ woman, justice has been delayed, with the bereaved families fighting a legal battle for more than two years now.

Right to legal redress: In May, the National Human Rights Commission recommended that the government monetarily compensate 80-year-old Tanka Prasad Acharya of Rupakot Majhuwagadhi Municipality-1, Diktel, for the discrimination he faced for consuming yoghurt touched by a Dalit.

Similarly, the Jumla District Court recently convicted Nabin Budha, son of former Sija Rural Municipality Ward Chairperson Kali Bahadur Budha, of caste-based discrimination that transpired in June 2021. He was sentenced to four months imprisonment and fined NPR 20,000 (approx. USD 149), with an additional NPR 25,000 (approx. USD 189) going to the victim as compensation. His father, on the other hand, was acquitted on all counts.

Individual liberties
  • Assembly, association & expression: The naming of Province-1 as ‘Koshi’, in the name of a river in March, 2023 has become an incendiary issue in Nepal (the naming of the province following Nepal’s transition to a federal democratic structure in 2015 had been long-delayed due to differences of opinion between the political parties). Identity-based groups had been demanding the province be eponymously named ‘Kirat’ (an agglomeration of ethnic groups claiming indigeneity in the region), thus, reflecting their historicity and identity which, however, was ignored by the provincial assembly. This has resulted in long-running protests by the agitated groups escalating into violent clashes on multiple occasions. In a clash on 9 May, 22 people including 10 police were injured: police had attempted to forcibly extinguish the flame in a torchlight rally inciting the peaceful rally into a riot. Protestors have been decrying the lack of consultations by the provincial assembly in the naming of the province despite attempts by the groups to present their demands. The unilateral decision has been seen as a majoritarian imposition and a denigration of the historical significance attributed by the protesting indigenous communities to the region.
  • Freedom of religion or belief: The US Department of State’s annual report on international religious freedom, released in February 2023, accused India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of paying prominent Nepali leaders of all parties to lobby for a Hindu state. The report also spotlighted the discrimination faced by Nepal’s religious minorities, including Christians and Muslims. It emphasised the state’s weaponisation of anti-proselytisation laws to target religious minorities and indigenous communities, alongside a wider tendency toward arresting and prosecuting these groups on allegations of cow slaughter. Likewise, the report underlined the Pashupati Area Development Trust’s continued refusal to allow Christians to bury their deceased in a cemetery behind Pashupatinath temple. Furthermore, it brought to the fore the difficulties faced by protestant churches in accessing property they had purchased years ago for burial in the Kathmandu Valley. In May 2023, the government of Nepal submitted a diplomatic communication disputing the report’s findings.
Economic, social, and cultural rights
  • Despite legal and constitutional safeguards designed to preserve Dalit rights, attacks on their economic, social and cultural space continue, as evidenced by the Karnbir Luwar case in Humla. On 2 April, 2023, Luwar was barred from transporting his father’s deceased body along a public route, prompting him to file a complaint with the National Dalit Commission. Following the complaint, the Commission notified the Humla District Administration Office which in turn directed the Chankheli Rural Municipality (where the incident took place) to investigate the issue. Similarly, in Sarlahi district, a man from the Musahar community committed suicide after being pressured to leave his ancestral home in the village of Kawalasi. The new land owner wanted to evict all Musahars residing on his land, despite the old owner allowing them to live there, although legal ownership had never been officially transferred.
Other developments
  • Criticism has been directed by Dalit activists on the recently introduced annual plans and programmes of the government. The incumbent Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, had reportedly promised the Dalit community expansive plans which the community claimed they ‘will remember forever’. However, the commitment was not reflected when the plans and programmes were announced. Prachanda has been accused of deception by Dalit activists who have blamed him for making promises for political gain. Despite de jure measures which have outlawed discrimination and untouchability based on caste, de facto discrimination has been widespread in Nepali society, acutely affecting the quality of life of Dalits. Effective implementation of laws and policies is yet to be fully translated into action.
  • Following a petition to the Supreme Court by Tharu activists demanding affirmative action—in which the Public Service Commission and other state institutions were named defendants—the court directed the government to enact a new federal civil service legislation within nine months of the final pronouncement of the verdict. The defendants’ argued that although there are no quotas specifically for Tharus, individuals belonging to the Tharu community can apply for government positions under the Madheshi and indigenous categories. The court, however, ruled that such an assertion was in violation of the spirit of the constitution given that Tharus are recognised as a distinct ethnic group in the constitution. The decision, thus, fortified affirmative action’s standing within the country as a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right.
  • The Narainapur Rural Municipality in Banke has introduced a new law against cow slaughter, which includes a one-year ban on using municipal services for offenders. Moreover, individuals offering information on cow slaughter in the rural municipality will now be rewarded with NPR 15,000 (approx. USD 113)
  • The total count of castes and ethnicities in the country has increased from 125 in the 2011 census to 142 in the 2021 census. With reference to the new additions, the National Statistics Office has faced criticism from various Tharu organisations, including the Tharu Commission and the Tharu Welfare Assembly for categorising the Rana Tharus as a separate caste and language group. According to stakeholders, despite language variation among Tharus across the country, they continue to identify as Tharus.
  • In response to a writ petition, the Supreme Court of Nepal granted an interlocutory injunction in June of this year, suspending the implementation of the new Citizenship Bill authenticated by President Ramchandra Poudel in May.Madhesh-based political parties protested the Supreme Court’s decision as the Bill’s passage would have cleared the way to citizenship for tens of thousands of stateless people, a disproportionate number of whom are from the Madhesh. In addition, cross-border marriages are common in the Madhesh region and the current Citizenship Act denies citizenship by descent to children born to Nepali women and having foreign fathers; such children can only acquire naturalised citizenships. It must be noted that naturalised citizens are barred from holding public offices such as the president, the vice-president, the prime minister, the chief justice and the speaker of the house.

Although the domestic legal framework in Nepal has extensive legal measures for the protection of minorities, its adoption has been piecemeal at best, reflecting an incomplete implementation and dissonance between mandates and actuality.

Pakistan has been facing political turmoil in the wake of the largest political opposition party facing arrests, mob violence and damage to public property. Rising unrest has been in the wake of high inflation and a looming economic crisis, adding to the risk faced by minorities who are already marginalised.

Physical integrity rights

Arbitrary deprivation of life

During the period under review, there were several reported targeted killings of religious minorities by extremist non-state actors. Victims included:

  • A Hindu senior doctor in Karachi (30th March)

  • A Sikh trader (31st March) and a Christian sanitation worker (1st April) in Peshawar, in two separate attacks claimed by the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (IS-KP) extremist group

  • Two Sikh traders in Peshawar (15th May)

While Pakistan’s top political leadership has condemned the killings and assured the speedy apprehension of perpetrators, no arrests are known to have been made in connection with any of the cases.


Arbitrary detention


  • Ali Ahmad Tariq, a senior Ahmadiyya lawyer in Karachi, was arrested and sent to jail on judicial remand after he added the Muslim title ‘Syed’ before his name on legal papers. Tariq was arrested under Section 298B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which criminalises Ahmadis if they refer to themselves as Muslims. Since 2018, over 200 Ahmadiyyas have reportedly been arrested for using Islamic signs and words.

  • Two Christian teenagers in Lahore, including a minor, were arrested on blasphemy charges after a police official claimed he overheard the boys insult Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. Pakistan’s poorly defined blasphemy laws require low standards of evidence, and have long been weaponised against religious minorities. Blasphemy accusations also regularly lead to mob violence. On 9th May, in the second such incident this year, a Muslim cleric was lynched by an angry mob in Mardan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) after he allegedly made a blasphemous reference during a political rally.

Freedom of religion or belief

On 4th May, an Ahmadiyya mosque in Mirpur Khas (Sindh) was desecrated by a violent mob. The attack was the ninth such incident so far this year, and the sixth in Sindh.

Other developments
  • Marriage and minority rights: Islamabad Capital Territory notified rules for the Hindu Marriage Act, 2017, enabling Hindus to marry according to their customs. The rules, called the ‘Islamabad Capital Territory Hindu Marriage Rules 2023’, have been sent to all union councils for implementation. Under the rules, a Maharaj, a Hindu male with knowledge of the religion, can be appointed to solemnise marriages. Like registered nikah-khawans for Muslims, respective union councils will issue a marriage certificate to the appointed Maharaj.
  • UPR recommendations: The plight of minority sanitation and domestic workers was highlighted at the Working Group on Pakistan’s recently-concluded Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Several recommending states called for decent working conditions and specialised legislation to protect these workers. Other key recommendations received by Pakistan included:
    • Amnesty International, among other stakeholders, reiterated previous recommendations to Pakistan to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), and to incorporate it into domestic law.
    • The International Commission of Jurists, among other stakeholders, called on Pakistan to become party to the ICCPED, the Migrant Workers Convention, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Optional Protocol to the Torture Convention, and the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights.
    • Several stakeholders called on Pakistan to submit its overdue periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
    • Several stakeholders called for appointments to Pakistan’s National Human Rights Institutions to be made in accordance with the Paris Principles.

The risk to the vulnerability of minorities in the context of liberties and fundamental rights remains heightened, but appears to be on low priority for Pakistan’s authorities. The focus on the rights for minorities to live with dignity and equality requires more intersectional advocacy approaches.

During the period under review, several leading international human rights organisations continued engaging in dialogue with the Sri Lankan government vis-a-vis its compliance with International Human Rights Law, including international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). While the UN Human Rights Committee noted the considerable progress made by the incumbent Sri Lankan administration in relation to the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) throughout the island, concerns were also raised regarding the status of constitutional reform, continuing impunity for military officers, and other specific human rights transgressions.

Physical integrity rights
  • On March 9, 2023, the Human Rights Committee (HRComm) of the United Nations (UN) ended its consideration of the sixth periodic report on Sri Lanka which reflects the extent of Sri Lanka’s compliance with the clauses of the ICCPR. The report opens on a positive note, commenting on the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) throughout the island of Sri Lanka. The report noted that 92% of the private lands occupied by the military had been released to civilian owners. On internally displaced persons, the delegation that visited Sri Lanka noted that 2,324 internally displaced persons were being housed in welfare centers and 13.3 acres of State land were allocated to those families. The report further notes that the President, H.E Ranil Wickremesinghe had appointed a committee to classify land as forest land.

  • However, the Human Rights Committee (HRComm) on a negative note raised its concerns in relation to the release of individuals who have been accused of serious human rights transgressions and violations. The committee named specific individuals and expresses its regret over what it perceives as a serious culture of impunity including the promotion of military officers previously accused of human rights violations to senior ranking positions. Certain officers who have recently been promoted were responsible for troops who have faced serious accusations of human rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The specific details of individuals and incidents as well as detailed commentary of this report can be accessed here. The report of Human Rights Watch on Sri Lanka published on March 30 2023 can be accessed here.

Individual liberties
  • On 6 March the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) briefed the members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, ahead of the CCPR review of the civil and political rights scenario in Sri Lanka. FIDH raised the issue of violations of Article 21 (right of peaceful assembly) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by the authorities in the context of the 2022 protest movement.

    In particular, the report observes a series of violent crackdowns on protests in Sri Lanka in which members of the Sri Lankan public were killed. Although this particular briefing is in the context of the 2022 protest movement it is highly relevant to the period under review in this bulletin as the report observes that this same pattern of violation of rights in relation to freedoms of assembly, expression and association. Analysis of the report points to a complex political and legal situation with the incumbent administration being intolerant of Freedom of Assembly and noting its clear concerns that these freedoms are yet being trampled upon. The specifics and the details of the March 2023 briefing can be found here.

  • Freedom of religion or belief: The 2022 report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has included Sri Lanka on a special watch list. This report notes: ‘At the end of the year, approximately 70 Muslims, including 25 who were indicted on various charges and whose court cases were ongoing, remained in custody in connection with the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks that targeted Christian churches and luxury hotels, killing 268 persons, including 46 foreign citizens, and injuring more than 500. Religious rights groups reported instances in which police continued to prohibit, impede, or attempt to close Christian and Muslim places of worship, citing government regulations. In April, the government widened the scope of regulations requiring approval for construction of places of worship.’ The full report can be accessed here.

    The same concerns were also highlighted separately by the United States (US) Department of State in its 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom.

  • There is also a general pressing concern in Sri Lanka about the trend in the activities of extremist Buddhist groups. These groups were particularly potent during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa (2005-2015) with the group styling itself the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) being the most prominent. This group in particular has been considered to be sanctioned by former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who acted as Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency. Since the Rajapaksa dynasty has been toppled out of power, the prominence of these right-wing Buddhist groups has reduced. However, the sentiments and the ideas of such groups are embryonic in Sri Lanka’s political architecture and these sentiments if leveraged and reinforced may develop further.

Economic, social, and cultural rights
  • The most recent update by the World Bank report on Sri Lanka in April 2023, paints a grim picture where economic and social rights are concerned. Sri Lanka is currently facing its worst economic crisis in history with crippling inflation, unemployment and an international debt crisis. Although the inflation figure along with unemployment eased ever so slightly in the period under review, March-May 2023, there are several lingering causes for concern. First, Sri Lanka’s international debt situation remains as serious as ever, with the bulk of the accumulated debt consisting of the purchase of international sovereign bonds in bulk. Questions remain as to how this debt which is the most staggering and concerning macroeconomic indicator is going to be serviced in the short and long term. There are also general concerns regarding Sri Lanka’s fiscal and monetary situation along with a highly fluid and volatile political situation. Local Government Elections scheduled to be held in April 2023 have been postponed to next year amid concerns over costs and other factors and a political situation defined by a President elected via a parliamentary vote, lacking a democratic mandate/legitimacy from the people is fuelling political instability. The full report can be accessed here.

Other developments
  • The economic situation: Sri Lanka is still facing an acute economic crisis of unparalleled levels. The prices of essential goods and foods are rising coupled with increasing inflation and unemployment. The lingering question amongst analysts is can Sri Lanka get out of this situation? The primary indicator of concern is Sri Lanka’s international debt figure which has accumulated over the years by the  purchase of international sovereign bonds in bulk. These bonds represent the largest proportion of debt that Sri Lanka has accumulated. In response to this crisis the Sri Lankan government has requested financial assistance from willing partner countries such as China and India and has secured in March 2023 a $ 3 billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Funds (IMF) which it must repay. However, how far are these measures going to keep Sri Lanka afloat and do they address the core internal structural weaknesses that got Sri Lanka into this crisis in the first place?

  • Elections and the Political Situation: The current political equilibrium in Sri Lanka is highly complex. The President has been elected via a parliamentary vote and lacks the legitimacy of having secured the mandate of the electorate via a Presidential Election. The current administration is highly concerned about any type of election and its ability to win. These concerns were reflected by the postponement of the Local Government Elections scheduled to be held in April 2023 to 2024. Further, rival factions such as the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) are agitating, expressing concerns over the current leadership but lacking the political capital to win elections. The next Sri Lankan Presidential Election is scheduled for September 2024 and cannot be postponed constitutionally. The political situation in Sri Lanka can be observed to be in flux, with the political future of the country resting on the next Presidential Election which is slowly but surely drawing near. The political situation and the economic situation are closely linked and careful observation of both dimensions will be needed during the upcoming months.

In conclusion, this bulletin has observed concerns in relation to human rights violations in Sri Lanka alongside some positive metrics in relation to IDPs during the period under review, March-May 2023. Concerns have also been observed in relation to the rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association. Furthermore, Sri Lanka’s economic and financial crisis is ongoing coupled with a highly fluid and volatile political nexus. In sum, serious observation and analysis of Sri Lanka’s Legal, Human Rights and Political developments are needed to better equip stakeholders to shape the socio-legal and human rights/political landscape in the short and long-run.